Race Recap: Midnight Sun Half Marathon

By | July 1, 2024

Nope, I had no fun whatsoever

What a magical, wonderful experience north of the Arctic Circle. Working on a post about the trip for others who travel all that way, but for now linking up with Deborah and Kim for a recap of the Midnight Sun Half Marathon in Tromsø, Norway on June 22.

I signed up for this race in January when June was a long way away. Somehow, the first half the year moved in fast forward and I was packing for Norway. Training was not what I’d wanted, but with the Rock and Roll Half (March), Prospect Park and Parkway Classic 15K/10M (April) and two double digit treadmill runs in May, I knew I could run 13.1 without injuring myself. I didn’t have to worry about finishing smiling as I was so excited about running in Norway that I knew it was a given.

A quick note on Tromsø, the hospitality of the people and the city was just beautiful. It felt like a runners’ takeover although there were some large cruise ships in town, but they also seemed genuinely happy to have us there.

TL;DR: do this race. Norway is magical. I overused magical throughout this recap.


Pre Race:

Shakeout with Northern Runners

featuring a meetup with Jessie!

expo shenanigans

welcome dinner!

pre-race festival

I arrived in Tromsø on Wednesday evening to allow for travel delays, sightseeing and because I wasn’t going all that way just for the race. More on this in a travel post but one recommendation and the one thing I’d do differently is to do it as part of a longer European trip. Otherwise it’s a very long travel day. I went from JFK and left at 11PM Tuesday and arrived in Tromso around 10:45 Wednesday.

Race organizers announced a shakeout with a local run group Friday morning and while I don’t typically run the day before, this being 8A Friday with a 9P start Saturday it felt more akin to running Thursday evening before a Saturday morning race. I’m so glad I went and that I was wearing a Prospect Park race tee because it’s where Jessie and I officially met and it was an icebreaker with two other NYC runners, one of whom lives adjacent to Prospect Park.

The route out followed the coast and one of the run group ran with me and shared his stories of running and life in Tromso and we all stopped for a breather at Telegrafbutska which may have been where the telegraph came to land there. Fun even aside from the race as we spent many childhood vacations going to Marconi Station on Cape Cod. The return route followed some of the race course, which I appreciated on the home stretch on Saturday. It was a great welcome to town, and a sense of all the hospitality that just was Tromsø.

After that, I headed to the Cable Car and then to the “Expo” for bib pickup and some shopping. It was a small expo, but the step I found most different to US races was the station where you scan your envelope to be sure the chip works. The bibs are large, a full A4 paper size which was different to what I expected. I love this trend of polaroid / IG frames and it would be illegal not to pose with one.

Friday evening I had signed up for the welcome dinner at a local hotel and we took over their ballroom with a huge buffet. While on line to enter I ran into two Argentinian runners I’d met on a tour Thursday and Renee had texted me about a friend of hers running so we planned to meet. She spotted me on entrance and we all sat together, soon to be joined by Corinne, the Brooklyn runner I’d met earlier. It was a delicious meal and amazing conversation filled with races run, places visited. It was magic. I think this felt different to other destination races because Zooma Bermuda was a small group and we weren’t staying in town so running into one another was in the hotel, and Juneau was such a small race that we were overshadowed by all the cruise ships.

The biggest challenge of this race was how to stay off your feet while waiting for a night race — and how relaxing is not a thing I do on vacation. I rested ish with a short walk to Polaria, the aquarium, and then tried to sort out the other question. What to eat. I threw nothing new on race day out the window and had fish & chips. I regret nothing. I then went back to my hotel room, charged my phone and had some coffee as it would be a late night.


just gone 11 pm

all smiles on the bridge around mile 5

prettiest turnaround ever


happy 10K and Half finishers

+ one marathoner

just after midnight

WOW. This race was a total blast. There is no breaking down good or bad because it was all good.

The Marathon was starting at 8:30 and I planned to get there earlier to see Jessie and Dustin off, but ended up going even earlier since my phone was charged and I was going stir crazy. Finishing at midnight was special but 9pm was just a little too much time to kill. I knew this going in and was fine with it. The start area was a great open plaza and a great chance to people watch and talk. The time passed quickly and we had an emergency pee and were off.

Things to note:

  • There are no corrals to speak of, you just merge in when you’re ready to start / where you feel right pace wise. I am fine with that, but it might not be OK for someone who wants to plan their race.
  • We knew the race markers would count down, but I didn’t see any until the 5K marker. Was nice to have that “countdown” of 5, 4,3…. someone with a good sense of humor had defaced the 1 to read 11. Meanie 😀
  • I had walked the bridge to the cable car Friday so I knew what to expect in terms of the long climb, but thanks to mile one energy I ran more of it than I expected. The course was two long out and backs and with the marathoners getting out half an hour earlier and their longer run south on the mainland, there was no clogging up. It did provide some opportunities to see fellow runners, which was fun. Prior to this year, Half marathoners didn’t get to run the mainland and while I didn’t love the bridge, the course was a stunner especially as we headed north and looked west to the “setting” sun.
  • Dressing for the race was hard as you’re not used to slightly dipping temps as the race goes on. I had all the options with me and ultimately ended up in my beloved Cascade that I’ve run every half since Juneau in and an Athleta Momentum I found on Poshmark with a hood. I knew the bridge would be windy, although I didn’t end up needing to pull it up. The Skirt was the one we tripleted in for Parkway and which sequined all over Coco’s car. It’s not my favorite of the four? sequin skirts I have, but they’re fun and get a lot of call outs.
  • The call outs were one of the race highlights, all of the heias felt like they were cheering personally for me. There was excellent crowd support throughout and good support from race marshals.
  • Water stops are less frequent in European races, which I knew. What I didn’t expect and came to love was the clear cups which avoid the water or gatorade? pause and road block. Post race was a mix of apple juice and sparkling water and that was perfect. In US races I usually cut the gatorade with water, but I will have to try juice one day as that was just what my body wanted.
  • I tried a bunch of fueling options in the lead up to this race and ended up with my old favorite, Cliff Salted Margarita blocks. I don’t love them — they’re too large compared with the beans and chews Id’ been using, but I wanted some electrolytes and they work.
  • The pace was definitely party and photo, I wouldn’t regret one more photo stop. About halfway through I realized I was on a good pace and would come in under the debacle that was RnR DC even with some walking as my legs got tired.
  • I only went to look at my splits now and I was fast for current me through 8 and then about on my long run pace through the end until the last quarter mile was fast. I never care about my splits, but that was nice to see. It’s homework for my next Half.
  • The finish line energy/chute was absolutely amazing and I picked it up. It was a party, for me! It was also super easy to circle right back out to watch Monique, Luis, Noa and Jessie come in and celebrate that we’d done a THING! Luis is 80 and won his age group. Midnight and we were all buzzing like it was noon.

Post Race

Tiki bar at 1:30 AM

Finish line at 3AM

medal with the sculpture that inspired it

looking out over the harbor

The challenge with finishing around midnight is what do you do? You’re too wound up to sleep. We’d been warned restaurants would be closed, but pubs were open and Dustin, Jessie and I continued our catchup at a Tiki Bar called Misfits after checking a couple of other options. We’ve read one another’s blog for as long as we’ve all been here, but there’s just something about talking in person. <3

My eyelids started to feel the long day and I headed back to the hotel. The finish line was still up, although they’d begun to break it down and the 3am light was just… magical. I’ve overused that, but there is no other word.

I slept in a little the next morning but still wanted time to get to breakfast. After checking out (I left for Reykjavik that night), I wandered around Tromsø doing some shopping, sightseeing (including with the statue dedicated to the race that matched the medal) and the Polar Museum. I partook in Marathon Monday when I ran NYC, but this was it on steroids because it was such a small area and a beautiful day (nearly 70 F!) to be outside.

I was sad to be leaving this community of runners and so grateful to have visited this beautiful town and country. It definitely scratched the itch for more travel, racecations or otherwise.   While I always say the Half is my favorite (it’s really a tie between that and the 10M/15K), the last few haven’t felt it. This one did and I loved every step, even when my Achilles was whining. I don’t know if it was travel magic, the midnight sun, weather or what not, but I’ll take it. Can you chase that? I don’t know. But I’m going to take it where it goes.  I want to use this as a base for October, but also know I’m not motivated to run long in the heat so we’ll see.

The marathon chatter was everywhere, even among Half marathoners. That I didn’t feel tempted endorses that it’s the right decision for me right now.

I love smaller races. This was brought home by how cranky I was taking half an hour to cross the start of a Central Park 4M this weekend. This coupled with the small town of Tromsø made for a unique energy that just contributed to how great a weekend it was. Definitely food for thought in planning 2025 races.

Late starts are a challenge, but not a deal breaker. It was fun to do something different, very much in line with my “why not” year.

Other Race Notes:

  • The organizers of this were great. I felt all the communications were timely, useful and helpful especially as we got closer to race day. They had a full program with pre and post race activities and add ons we could choose from.
  • Tromsø has a large number of hotels thanks to the cruise traffic and it’s easy to pick one that fits your budget (although yes, it’s Scandinavia and everything is expensive). I stayed at the Thon Hotel Tromsø, one that was a host hotel and the room was clean, comfortable and the breakfast was delicious. There is no gym, but you have access to the one at the Thon Polar across the street.
  • Tromsø is easy to navigate. It’s 10M to town on the airport bus or in a taxi, and slightly longer on the public bus. I took a taxi on arrival because long ass day, but the airport bus was super easy on the way out.  This race is super navigable solo.

This post as it originated in my Notes app while away for some stream of consciousness amusement:

-myarctic experience, Scandinavian summer
– traveling for an event vs a vacation. I went to Norway to run a race! First true racecation since Bermuda and very different feel since we weren’t in town. Different too to Juneau which was so small and runner community outnumbered by cruise passengers
– Arctic was special. That was a wow
– Fjords different to alaskas. No glaciers
– Midnight Sun makes you want to play. Could not be trusted even though rationally it gets old
– Feel of 20s travel. Hostel meets , now with social media. Welcome dinner. Tours. All circling one another
– True hospitality of small town, small race. The “heia”s felt like a personal cheer. Welcome / shakeout run.
– Truly felt like I love the Half v just saying it. Base for October. Cannot keep doing it untrained.
– Heading the stories of the other runners did tickle marathon itch but not now. Not yet.
– Half 15 is top 3
– Uncertainty on arrival in Amsterdam, I didn’t feel comfortable with solo travel in 2017 but now, buses and trams were easy and felt normal.
– I’m too old for 18 hour travel days
– But that’s what was special. The commitment to run. There is a theoretical direct to Oslo but really you’re skipping around Northern Europe.
– Duolingo was useful for menu reading.
– Limping folks walking off plane stairs

Questions it opened up

– Half in Antarctica?
– Svalbard ?
– I’ve always known with NYCRuns. I like the small races. Juneau too. What’s a fun small destination one after Detroit? Not a novelty. I like cooler weather and races.



13 thoughts on “Race Recap: Midnight Sun Half Marathon

  1. Deborah Brooks

    I loved hearing all about this adventure! The people sound fabulous, the views amazing and the experience of running at daylight at night is unforgettable. Also love that you met so many new friends and also got to meet Jessie and her husband. A trip to remember

  2. Kimberly Hatting

    What an epic experience! The views, the people (locals & runners) and the race itself all sound fabulous. Im especially intrigued with the sunlight through the evening:-)

  3. Jenn

    I want to go. We just got our passport renewals packaged up and will be sending them out as soon as K gets home. And then? I don’t know but I hope we can go do some THINGS.
    Everything about this event looks fantastic: from the pre-run, to meeting up with Jessie, to those fabulous tiki drinks. I am so happy for you and I wish you lived closer because I would love to have coffee and hear all about it.

  4. Darlene S Cardillo

    It sounds so awesome — everything.. esp meeting others… kinda like Bermuda… it’s the people.


    After 2024, no more BIG NYC races (well maybe the mini but then I’m done).

    See you soon, I want to hear more about the race and the travel plans.

    1. cari Post author

      Definitely the people, but on a larger scale than Bermuda. If someone was going to do that I’d recommend they stay in town to have a similar feeling. Detroit is my next Half, I think.

  5. Wendy

    What an amazing experience! I am so grateful to live vicariously through you and Jessie! Of course, I’d love to do this, but idk if my body would let me. Congrats and thank you for sharing your experience with us!

    1. cari Post author

      One of the best things about the event is it is truly for all runners, from a kids race through the marathon so everyone can participate if they choose. Other than the bridge which isn’t terrible, it’s a fairly flat course. 10K and below don’t do the bridge so you can avoid that.

  6. Shathiso

    This was so emotional for me to read!! My mum was from the west cost of Norway, close to Bergen, but had never visited Tromsø! It was always a dream of hers. I love that you had the most awesome and MAGICAL of experiences. Aside from running in one of the most beautiful countries in the world (and I am not biased!) I love that you had so many social experiences with other runners, including fellow blogger Jessie.

    1. cari Post author

      Oh how awesome. Bergen was beautiful. I’ll warn you when that post is coming if you want some time before seeing it land in your feed. THey’re truly our guardian angels.
      If you can, I’d highly recommend it. You’ll have to connect in Oslo or Bergen to get there, so it might as well b Bergen to honor her <3

  7. Liz Dexter

    What a wonderful read. It sounds such a special place and race, and I’m so pleased you got to meet Jessie and Dustin and made so many other lovely connections.

  8. Debbie

    What a great recap of your amazing adventure, Cari! It’s wonderful that you got to meet Jessie and Dustin. Meeting people in person that we “already know” is so cool. And I don’t think you could use the word magical too much when talking about your race (and visit in general) experience.

  9. Lisa @ TechChick Adventures

    What a fun race experience! Glad you had such a great time at this race. How weird to be running that late at night… but also that it’s so bright out! Yay that the fish and chips worked out for you 🙂


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